Hacker News new | past | comments | ask | show | jobs | submit login

Right, the assumption is that if Daily Caller, Kos, and Breitbart became more popular then Google would surface them as authoritative.

First, there's a popular belief amongst their readership (for whatever reason) that this is not the case and that Google actively works against sites like these. Furthermore, if it doesn't currently work against these sites, it's taken for granted that if (for some reason) Zero Hedge became more popular than WSJ Google would work against it.

Secondly, if it were the case that Google would surface Zero Hedge over WSJ purely because of popularity is that ok? Is that what should happen? If Google does want to curate rather than using a "blind" algorithm does that change the way it's regulated and what it's responsible for?

I think this is something we haven't quite figured out as a free society. We recognize that an educated citizenry is a vital requisite for our survival as a free people (please don't over index on who the quote is attributed to).

Yes there are a multitude of media outlets on the internet which the citizenry can use to educate themselves. Are there moral hazards when the majority of the citizenry arrive at one or two doorsteps in-spite of the multitude of alternatives? What is the risk if what's served from that doorstep is detrimental to the republic?




> First, there's a popular belief amongst their readership (for whatever reason) that this is not the case and that Google actively works against sites like these.

Breitbart in particular has run a long series of articles featuring leaked discussions from within Google where there are calls internally to remove or penalize Breitbart from organic listings, and deactivate their AdWords.

They also discussed censorship on Facebook and Twitter amoung others.

They run these under the umbrella “Masters of the Universe”:

https://www.breitbart.com/masters-of-the-universe/


They should do so. Breitbart isn't really a news site; if you wanted to dignify it, you'd compare it to Salon, which also doesn't belong in news summaries on Google.


That wasn’t meant as an endorsement of Breitbart, to be sure. But parent raised the question of why people think this, and trust in media is a crucial point these days.

Breitbart articles discussing Google censorship aren’t radical alt-right preaching. You can strongly believe that Google is making informed and conscientious decisions about censorship and rankings on their platform, and then read a different perspective on Breitbart to understand the other viewpoint.

For example, in response to a question as to why when doing an image search on Google for “idiot” that Trump is the result (Currently he is 3 of the top 10 results. I mean, that is pretty funny actually) Sundar Pichai swore to Congress that Google does not manually intervene on any search result. Is that really credible?

Maybe it’s a little hard to quantify what is a “real” news site anymore. Some people assume this is self-evident, but I am skeptical of everything I read.

I sometimes find it entertaining to see what slant opinionated news sites will put on a story and compare it against the MSM.


>For example, in response to a question as to why when doing an image search on Google for “idiot” that Trump is the result

https://www.bing.com/images/search?q=idiot

Is Sundar and Microsoft working together now? But wait, are they also paying off Duck Duck Go??

https://duckduckgo.com/?q=idiot&ia=images

These conspiratorial arguments that search engines are politically biased stems from technical illiteracy and/or a lack of critical thinking. The arguments are used as a distraction by certain people who want Americans to disregard any new information that may paint them in a negative light - and it is working on a subset of Americans.


That example was meant to be funny. That’s not to say there is not evidence of direct intervention in search rankings when the algorithm results were undesireable.

It’s beyond question that Google manually intervenes in Search results in some cases. That could be entirely innocuous or concerningly dubious. The question is exactly how, how often, and should they be accountable for it?


>It’s beyond question that Google manually intervenes in Search results in some cases.

If it's "beyond question" then it should be easy for you to provide evidence, right?

As with most conspiratorial arguments, you're trying to protect your opinion by using a false premise (and prevent people from questioning it).


Why is it beyond questioning?


> Breitbart articles discussing Google censorship aren’t radical alt-right preaching.

That may be narrowly true of a particular article but it isn't true of the newspaper as a whole.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Steve_Bannon

Bannon himself called Breitbart "the platform for the alt- right".


Real news sites post reported news. Breitbart digests news from real news sites. It's essentially a glamorized group blog, like Daily Kos. In fact, Breitbart is basically the right-wing version of Talking Points Memo, another group blog dressed up to look like a news site.

Fox News is a sharply right-wing news site with a very strong editorial bias. I don't like Fox News, but I can't argue that it doesn't belong in the same bracket as CNN. Breitbart does not.


This is mostly true. But, for example, they’ve interviewed Trump in the Oval Office. So not entirely un-credentialed.

You’ll say; This says more about Trump than it does about Breitbart.


No, I'll say that group blogs are a legitimate thing, and sometimes they get big-ticket interviews, and every once in awhile they even break a story. But that doesn't make them news organizations.

I'm not saying that sites like Breitbart should be buried (boycotts, though, seem fair game). I actually like Talking Points Memo every once in awhile. But I don't use blogs as my primary news source and Google shouldn't promote blogs as if they are.


CNN, MSNBC, WSJ, WaPo, and the Washington Times are not news sites either. They are mouthpieces in journalist clothing.


Interesting contention - who are they mouthpieces for?


One easy example is WaPo and the time they posted 16 negative Bernie Sanders stories in less than a day during the Democratic primaries:

https://fair.org/home/washington-post-ran-16-negative-storie...

Ever since Bernie has made Amazon a target, considering Bezos owns both. For example he was able to berate them into increase their minimum wage. Some sources:

https://www.cnbc.com/amp/2018/09/05/bernie-sanders-introduce...

https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2019-03-11/bernie-sa...

https://www.realclearpolitics.com/video/2019/05/05/bernie_sa...

Just like most big tech, the leadership is in bed with the corporate democrats, who are in turn in bed with the military industrial complex, big pharma, and Wall Street.


Do you have any examples of what you would consider to be legit journalism?


theintercept.com, therealnews.com, Max Blumenthal, Dan Cohen, Aaron Mate, Abby Martin, Caitlin Johnstone, Rania Khalek, and Kyle Kulinski are just a few.


Which they should

While it isn't quite as bad I'd compare Breitbart more to Der strummer the Nazi Propaganda rag then to partisan newspapers or blogs.

Racist and bigoted propaganda is what you'll see over and over in it's pages. Stuff like claims islamists burnt down Germany oldest church.

I'd say it's Google's societal duty to censor them


> Yes there are a multitude of media outlets on the internet which the citizenry can use to educate themselves. Are there moral hazards when the majority of the citizenry arrive at one or two doorsteps in-spite of the multitude of alternatives? What is the risk if what's served from that doorstep is detrimental to the republic?

As it turns out, we have figured a lot of this out. It turns out that a good way of deciding what is worth people's attention is to treat a link as a vote. We shouldn't be surprised or alarmed when that surfaces a few main choices, as most of everything is crap.

However as happens in almost every sphere of life, there's a good chance that the good stuff rises to the top (that would be that meritocracy that right wingers say they're fond of). Outranking the BBC for news is hard - it should be.

What its not for you to decide - even if you do suddenly start to decide to write in the style of John Stuart Mill - is that you like some ideas better than others and that you want to start forcing things on people that they neither want nor asked for in the name of 'balance'


Unfortunately, that’s not a good system. It would be an okay system (the phrase “worst possible except for all the alternatives” refuses to leave my mind on this) except for the fairly major problem that links and clicks can be automated, turning that into a bidding war. Propaganda of the rich, by the rich, and for the rich… and whoever they want to manipulate.

And that’s even without the problem that the people running the papers/channels are themselves both powerful and capable of having agendas that don’t need to be aligned with those of their readers.

Unfortunately, “what is true (news|science|morality|politics|economics|history)?” is very much not a solved problem.


> except for the fairly major problem that links and clicks can be automated, turning that into a bidding war.

I mean no disrespect by this but I'm inclined to think Google knows more about the issue of link and click fraud than you do.


Oh indeed, and I didn’t mean to imply otherwise. Most of what I know about it comes from their engineers explaining how they fight it — and that includes my awareness of how catastrophic it would be if they did nothing and only used the original PageRank algorithm without compensating for it.


Counting links isn’t a meritocracy, it’s a popularity contest. Those are not the same thing.

There is a reason that publications in Nature aren’t decided by Reddit votes, and it’s not because nobody can figure out how to integrate the two.

The question is: Is a simple popular majority a good way to decide what news all people should see?

It’s a great way to see what the majority echo chamber wants to hear, but that’s not really a good way to have a well-informed population.


> Secondly, if it were the case that Google would surface Zero Hedge over WSJ purely because of popularity is that ok? Is that what should happen?

Yes.

Obviously discard any SEO trickery. But if Zero Hedge is being cited more frequently, being chosen from search results more frequently, etc. then people have found it more helpful, and presumably other people would find the same.

The whole premise of democracy (both the form of literal governance and the general philosophy) is that most of the people are correct most of the time. There exist other algorithms to combine human opinion, but they are wrong more often.

Yes, most political pundits were wrong in predicting Clinton wound win in 2016. But I don't think it makes sense for Google to try and "manually" curate that.


Zero Hedge is a conspiracy blog published by anonymous authors. If people are clicking it in search results more frequently than actual news sites, that is in itself a problem.


What's an "actual news site" though? Major news outlets also regularly publish unfounded conspiracy theories (e.g. russia gate, WMD in Iraq, etc). The question is do you like yours flavored with anonymity or government funding?

The point is that its not a search engines job to make that determination. People will decide for themselves and whatever the algorithm is, it should seek to remove the personal biases of the implementers and be blind. It should seek to serve the asker not change the asker.

I feel like there could be a term, similar to "uncanny valley" where instead of detecting the in-human traits of something attempting to appear human we see bias in something attempting to be unbiased.


If you pre-suppose that news orgs are the same thing as conspiracy-mongers, you're going to have a hard time defining news sites as distinct from not-news sites. Most people don't start from that assumption and find the distinction useful, though.


I don't believe justinmchase pre-supposed anything.

They fairly pointed out the evidence of mainstream news sources promulgating conspiracy theories.


I missed the evidence, let alone evidence.


> russia gate, WMD in Iraq


That's not evidence of anything, it's just an outline of someone's screwball opinion. Just like 'NASA is a hoax-making organization (Moon stuff)' does not contain any evidence but simply outlines, in shorthand, a screwball opinion.


They're not the same thing but sometimes they do still peddle conspiracy theories that turn out to be false. Many are susceptible to delivering fake news as if it was real due to a conflict of interest related to their funding model.

It is useful to make a distinction between news organizations and non-news organizations but it is not useful to apply any sort of value judgement of either based on that fact alone.


Again, you're trying to conflate getting things wrong or inadequately accounting for bias or expectations with 'peddling conspiracy theories' or 'delivering fake news'. These things are not the same and that's one of the key distinctions between real news organizations and ones that aren't.


Consider the search phrase "Is the Earth flat?"

If Google detects more engagement towards "Yes" and flatearther conspiracy websites, should their search engine prioritize results that say the Earth is flat?

> If Zero Hedge is being cited more frequently, being chosen from search results more frequently, etc. then people have found it more helpful, and presumably other people would find the same.

> The whole premise of democracy (both the form of literal governance and the general philosophy) is that most of the people are correct most of the time.

1. Google's clickthrough metrics are subject to severe sampling bias.

2. The premise of democracy is seeking compromise across diverse opinions. American democracy has explicit protections against tyranny of the masses.

If NYT is regarded as an authority by a diverse audience across broad search domains and cited by other similarly broadly authoritative sites, while ZH is cited and viewed by a high-engagement but narrow and isolated audience, then NYT should be ranked above ZH. As it is.


> If Google detects more engagement towards "Yes" and flatearther conspiracy websites, should their search engine prioritize results that say the Earth is flat?

Yes.

Realize however that this is entirely hypothetical, as there is enormously more round earth information with extremely popular sites like wikipedia.org, nav.gov, etc.

My faith in democracy is strong that I believe this will always be the case, so long as the earth remains round.




Guidelines | FAQ | Support | API | Security | Lists | Bookmarklet | Legal | Apply to YC | Contact

Search: